Working virtually and having virtual access to your office is becoming increasingly common in today’s workforce. Even the federal government has some options available for virtual employees.
The benefits and drawbacks of working outside of a traditional office space is well-chartered blog territory. What is often missing from the conversation is what it takes to build and sustain a corporate culture of Zappos proportions with an entirely virtual team.
At SME Digital, we have up-leveled working virtually, beyond simply a job that allows you to work out of your home (or local Starbucks) to a fully realized and comprehensive virtual culture. And it’s amazing.
If you are able to combine the positive attributes of working virtually with a fully realized and sustainable culture…LOOK OUT WORLD.
There is something innately powerful about a company who runs on trust.
Which brings me to the most important component of building a virtual culture: Trust. What is the biggest obstacle for many employers to conquer? Trust. What is a top 3 reason that more employers don’t allow remote workers? Trust. In a virtual environment, employers have to trust their employees to do the work, which can understandably be difficult. But that trust is super vital. And, really, aren’t we all grownups?
Companies need to allow employees the autonomy to work without the visual check-ins, the on-site team meetings, and essentially, the ability to physically see the work being done.
For an employer, this can be scary. But for an employee, this can be so productively liberating.
So how do we facilitate that trust?
To pull this off, the employer needs to exist with a dynamic, almost fluid structure. I realize that sounds odd to corporate 9-5 types, but we’re proof positive here at SME Digital.
For example, some of us are on East coast time, while others are on West coast (or for some of us, South American) time. Working 100% virtually enables us to “workation” at will, which means our time zones fluctuate all of the time. Traditionally, we say that we work “from home”, but it is rare to have a week where all of us our actually at out home offices.
How do we make sure we work together and don’t lose track of key projects and deliverables? Efficient, constant, thorough communication.
We do it all through a complex system of levers and pulley’s…just kidding.
We use a virtual office, Sococo, to provide everyone with a real-time, yet completely virtual office experience. Through our computer screens, we always know who is in the office and who is out. We can have informal meetings just as easily as planned meetings. We can video chat, screen share, instant message, and even visit each other’s offices all through this one portal. It’s a huge component of our success as a virtual company.
Another key component of success: Picking the right talent to fit the culture. I have previously covered what skills are required to work here at SME Digital, so check this post out for more depth there. But the key is that a flexible, time-shifted, trusting culture isn’t always a perfect fit for everyone. But it’s the perfect fit for us. And if you’ve read this far in, my guess is that virtual work would be a pretty damn good fit for you, too.
We live in the details.
We also leverage Basecamp to manage our team and our client projects. It’s simple and effective, and most importantly, it works as super glue for a virtual team. Yes, email and phone calls are important to keep us on track and moving in the right direction, but when you can’t simply walk down the hall and tap someone on the shoulder or bump into someone on the elevator, having a central platform to keep the office organized is extremely helpful.
We hang out.
This is true. We actually hang out, but virtually. Sometimes we meet up in the evenings or early in the morning. We prioritize casual chats, oftentimes about anything but work. We travel a lot, we have families, we have life events, and we have our ups and downs. We don’t have a physical water cooler, but those real-world conversations are very important in a virtual work environment. Just like in the traditional workplace.
Trust, Space, Culture, Details, Connections
Working virtually allows human beings to be human beings, and more importantly allows adult to be adults. We get to have professional security, growth, and engagement without sacrificing personal security, growth, and engagement.
In people speak, you get to have a life.
If virtual employment is on your bucket list, make sure that you find the right fit and culture that jives with your flow. Then jump in (or perhaps, jump out). I dare you to ever go back.
If you are currently a virtual employee, what tips/ideas would you add to this? And if you are still bound to a physical workplace, what’s stopping you from breaking free?